House Logo
Explore categories +

John Gatins (#110 of 6)

SXSW 2015: 7 Chinese Brothers, Kings of Nowhere, & Limbo

Comments Comments (...)

SXSW 2015: 7 Chinese Brothers, Kings of Nowhere, & Limbo
SXSW 2015: 7 Chinese Brothers, Kings of Nowhere, & Limbo

You’ve seen this character a million times before: white male, late 20s, prone to wise-ass comments, incapable of keeping even the least stimulating job—but of course with a soft spot. It’s exasperating that Bob Byington is content with lobbing another one of these sad-sack character studies at a festival in which that very subject has far exceeded its sell-by date, and not only that, but to do it with Jason Schwartzman, who plays these kinds of witty mopes in his sleep. 7 Chinese Brothers—an arbitrary title whose meaning Byington lazily deferred to the audience after the screening—suggests a revivification of early 2000s indie cuteness, an impression made all the more troubling by the contemporary roster behind the project: The film features appearances by such notable of-the-moment talents as Alex Karpovsky, TV on the Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe, and even Alex Ross Perry.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Original Screenplay

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay

More than in any of the other categories it’s nominated in, the unreal fall from grace suffered by Zero Dark Thirty will be particularly palpable when it inevitably loses here. Though few would deny that it represents this category’s most massive undertaking, and even some of the political blogosphere’s harshest critics still gave Mark Boal’s skill backhanded praise for what they deemed flagrant ethical persuasion, the 24-hour news cycle has plainly turned what was until the nomination announcements the presumptive frontrunner for the prize into, well, something like Peter Staley up against the Academy’s petrified bureaucracies, who are evidently ignoring the film and hoping it will all go away. The Academy’s skittish unwillingness to grapple with the film’s prickly but magnanimous examination of a political situation with no easy answers is going to go down as one of their all-time NAGLs, especially given the two-pronged love letter to God and country (Hollywood and the rest of the U.S., respectively) that’s poised to take Best Picture. But as far as this specific category goes, the controversy swirling around just how much input/propaganda the C.I.A. supplied Boal with may well have killed off its chances to win original screenplay even if the issue of whether his film obliquely or outright endorses “enhanced interrogation techniques” hadn’t already hit the dependably liberal AMPAS right in the balls. Either way, Boal won’t lose this one because his movie failed to discredit Americans’ monstrous thirst for vengeance. He’ll lose it because our current climate also thirsts for clean, unfettered catharsis, something Zero Dark Thirty responsibly elides.

Understanding Screenwriting #104: Lincoln, Skyfall, Flight, & More

Comments Comments (...)

Understanding Screenwriting #104: <em>Lincoln</em>, <em>Skyfall</em>, <em>Flight</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #104: <em>Lincoln</em>, <em>Skyfall</em>, <em>Flight</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Lincoln, Skyfall, Flight, Silver Linings Playbook, Middle of Nowhere, Covert Affairs but first…

Fan Mail: First an addition to US#103. I mentioned in the credits for Argo that there was another source listed in the credits of the film, but I could not find it. Shortly after I sent off the column, the new issue of the British magazine Sight & Sound arrived. It identifies the other source as “based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez.” I’m guessing that’s the Tony Mendez.

David Ehrenstein liked my Sharon and Roman story so much he has added it to his one-man show, currently at finer bookstores near you.

“Erbear423” understandably took me to task for appearing to dump Paul Dano and Jesse Eisenberg into the same category as Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg. I can see how you can read my comments that way, but what I was trying to get at was more the kinds of roles they often play rather than the actors themselves. I like Dano and Eisenberg very much and they have been terrific in some very good movies, but even then they are often playing the sensitive young man finding his way in the world. My point was that there were no characters like that in Argo, for which I was grateful. As for Adam and Andy, they’re on their own.

Lincoln (2012. Written by Tony Kushner, based in part on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. 150 minutes.)

The public figure: I have always liked Tony Kushner, and not just the concept of Tony Kushner the public writer. The latter would be the playwright and activist who writes about public issues like AIDS, race, violence and politics. What I like about Kushner is that he is a hell of an interesting writer. OK, I will admit that when I first saw the stage play Angels in America in 1995, the writing instructor in me mentally got out my red grading pen. I imagined waving it in the air, saying, “You can cut this;” “You’ve said that three times, twice is probably enough;” “We don’t need all that.” Even though the TV film of Angels (2004) was shorter than the play, I brought out the mental red pen again. And his 2001 play Homebody/Kabul was probably talkier than it needed to be. But his book for the 2002 musical Caroline, or Change was a model of precision. And his screenplay, co-written by Eric Roth, of the 2005 film Munich was one of the smartest scripts of the last decade.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay

Thanks to Mark Boal’s second consecutive slam-dunk teaming with Kathryn Bigelow, the one certainty of this year’s Original Screenplay field is a bit of 2010 déjà vu. Boal picked up a statuette that year for penning Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, and he’s poised to do the same for his work on Zero Dark Thirty, his collaborator’s high-stakes, buzz-heavy follow-up. There are ample fine points to Boal’s script that fall in his favor, like the shaping of a classic hoo-ra heroine and the refusal to shy away from divisive torture scenes, which have surely provided the most popular angle for journalists covering the film. But the greatest asset should prove to be the movie’s all-access fascination, which only grows as this epic manhunt soldiers toward its killshot.

Next in line as a likely candidate is Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, a pint-sized love story beautifully suited to the offbeat auteur’s whimsy, and his most well-scripted effort since The Royal Tenenbaums. Currently teetering as a will-it-or-won’t-it Best Picture hopeful, Moonrise Kingdom has performed surprisingly well in the precursors, landing a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture—Comedy, getting shortlisted by the AFI, and clinching a heap of Indie Spirit nominations. If there’s one achievement for which the film is primed to advance, it’s Anderson’s markedly humane, yet still characteristically ironic, screenplay.

New York Film Festival 2012: Flight

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Flight</em>
New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Flight</em>

In Robert Zemeckis’s Flight, Denzel Washington stars as Whip Whitaker, a pilot with an addiction problem who guides a jetliner to the ground after a sudden failure sends the plane into freefall. Nearly everyone aboard survives and Whitaker is branded a national hero. Soon after, the pilot’s union discovers that he had alcohol and cocaine in his system, which sends Whitaker’s life into a tailspin. Believing that the crash had nothing to do with his consumption, Whitaker frantically navigates the shambles of his personal life to avoid dealing with his own problems. He’s assisted by a longtime union friend (Bruce Greenwood) and lawyer (Don Cheadle) for the airline, both of whom compromise ethical lines for their friend. He also meets a fellow addict, Nicole (Kelly Reilly), who’s more realistic about the state of her life and tries to help Whitaker recognize his.